Deathrow
Riders of Doom/Raging Steel (Reissues)

Germany’s now defunct Deathrow would have been classified as the second-tier thrash wave when their brand of thrash metal erupted in the mid-80’s.  Their debut album Riders of Doom was first released as Satan’s Gift and eventually as Riders of Doom that same year.  Two different album covers, however most would agree the Riders of Doom is the cover that best depicts the band.  I would even call Riders of Doom a melding of death/thrash metal, for it was quite fast and brutal for that time period and even by today’s standards I would still classify this as death thrash metal.

I remember getting this on vinyl as a Christmas present in ’86.  Just flat out ferocious speed with lots of melody.  The band were extremely talented on their instruments and when Riders of Doom was unleashed it was met with favorable reviews.  Whether it was the doomy, slow burning opening instrumental of “Winds of Death” or the burning death thrash of the title track or “Spider Attack”-constant headbanging was to ensue.  The band brought the melody and lots of it on the instrumental “Hell’s Ascent” and “Dark Tales”-which has a lot of emotive melodious parts.  The band would eventually drop their darker early death metal leanings and expand more on the thrash metal sounds with Raging Steel, released in 1987.

Raging Steel, while continuing to retain the same line-up as their raging debut, is really just as good as Riders of Doom, just with added melody.  The opening title track proves this as it’s just as fast as anything off Riders of Doom and certainly just as catchy.  The band continuing with some of their Slayer influence, however just as their debut, Deathrow helped shape the German thrash metal scene with albums that were, in my opinion, eclipsing, some of the US bands.  Deathrow experimented with some longer songs with some epic qualities, which as we all know, back in the 80’s was a huge European thing, still kinda is today, when you think about it.  But songs like “Dragon’s Blood” and “The Thing Within” really adding different nuances with melodic thrash riffing, but still retaining the speed one would come to expect from German thrash metal.  While Riders of Doom had darker thematic lyrics, Raging Steel’s lyrics were more fantasy inspired.

The Noise/BMG partnership did a wonderful job with these reissues.  I first want to point out that I did not review the third Deathrow reissue, Noise did, with Deception Ignored.  An amazing album, however Divebomb Records already reissued it in a stunning remaster some years back and the bonus content etc. is the same as the Noise reissue.  While I had cd reissues of both Riders of Doom and Raging Steel, they were not remastered.  The long sought after Listenable Records remasters have been oop and fetching for stupid sums of $$ on Ebay.  The Riders of Doom reissue has excellent additional bonus content including their Samhain (Deathrow’s original band name) demo and a rehearsal from 1985.  Raging Steel has just as great bonus songs.  The Eternal Death demo and a live track.

I would have liked to have known who is responsible for these remasters, because the sound is extraordinary.  To hear 2 of my favorite thrash albums sound this wonderful is thrilling for me.  Both releases are housed in thick digipaks complete with:  biographies, excerpts from the band, live photos, vintage band flyers and lyrics.  Truly top-shelf reissues.  If you’re wondering if Deathrow’s fourth and last album, from 1992, Life Beyond was ever reissued, it was.  A few years ago Divebomb obtained the rights and did a killer remaster.  Regardless, get these Deathrow reissues, they are well worth the extra money.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
February 4th, 2019

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